Part the Second
Haesel and Henry reappeared in a chamber that was floor-to-ceiling yellow marble—the Apparition Chamber in The Golden Fleece. The Golden Fleece was the elite pureblood club that forbade the use of offensive magic and provided entertainment for those worthy (and lucky) enough to be allowed entrance. The Potters were invited and written down in the books when it first opened centuries ago.
“Yes!” Henry said, pumping one fist in the air as he squeezed Haesel against his side. “I love it here!”
“I know,” Haesel replied with an amused smile. Her brother had been banned (by their grandfather) from entering The Golden Fleece alone after an incident involving some products Messrs. Fred and George Weasley sold him. Though her father had been proud of Henry, her mother and grandparents hadn’t been amused in the least. As a result, he could only come when someone had the time and inclination to chaperone him.
Henry picked Haesel up and spun her in a circle, laughing gleefully. The edge of her tunic lifted, and she worried that someone walking by would catch a glimpse up it. “Thank you! Thank you!” Henry cheered.
“All right, you’re welcome. Put me down now! We’re keeping the chamber occupied. That’s rude,” she chided as he set her back on her feet. Haesel smoothed the tunic down as far as it would go, and then took a fortifying breath. Here she was, two weeks from her coming of age gala, about to enter a premier club in wizard’s clothing. The knowledge that she should go home and change fluttered through her mind, but she discounted it. This tunic was comfortable, she looked good in it, and she had never been one to care about others’ opinions (excluding her family and closest friends).
“Let’s go, then!” said Henry as he offered her his arm, a gallant smile on his face. His eyes twinkled at her, daring her to take it and let him act as escort. “My lady.” He bowed mockingly.
“How gallant you are, Master Potter,” she teased. Haesel laid her right arm atop his left, her open palm resting over the back of his hand. The sleeve of her tunic slid up to reveal her wrist, and she could practically hear the outrage in her mother’s voice; how dare she display ankle, calf, knee, and wrist? Why, she might as well be nude!
Henry tilted his chin and stuck his nose in the air. “I daresay, Lady Haesel, that the peerage will be quite jealous I’ve been gifted with your company. The most beautiful woman in England—on my arm! Why, they shall simply faint with envy.”
A soft snort escaped her, though she would deny it to her dying day. “That’s enough, git. Let’s go do something. I didn’t escape the manor to stare at yellow marble or your face all day.”
Henry pouted as he led her toward the exit. “I’ll have you know that many people find me quite attractive.”
Her laughter was soft and musical, drawing attention as they stepped into the club proper. “Don’t worry, Henry. I’m sure plenty of people are dying to bond with you for more than your fortune.” She bit her lower lip. “If only fortune-hunters were my only worry.”
Sighing, Henry flipped his arm over and rubbed his thumb across her palm. “We’ll keep you safe,” he promised.
That was a Potter vow, and one she had heard many times in her life. Though she was unable to remember the first vow on her own, she had seen it in her father’s Pensieve. Whenever a daughter was born into the family, all of her male relatives were required to offer a Vow of Protection. Because a Potter’s word could not be broken by any means, it ensured that their female children could never be taken against their will, deflowered against their will, or abused. If such a situation were eminent, all Potter males bound to the female in danger would be forcibly Apparated to her side; it was their ultimate protection, and one of the Potter family’s greatest secrets.
“I know.” The Vow of Protection was all that kept her sane sometimes. When she was in a crowded place, such as Diagon Alley or Hogwarts, wizards stared at her with a cocktail of lust, greed, and pride in their eyes. She often felt the need to bathe herself clean of their emotions, which her magic amplified and warned her against.
She didn’t want to be seen as a bigot, but she felt safest around purebloods. They had their own money and power; they valued bloodlines and honor above all else. A pureblood was nothing without honor. Unlike the Muggle-born students, they would never be so crass as to ask her out on a date, like that revolting Dean Thomas had. He had not only asked her on a date, of all things—as if she were a common Muggle with no family responsibilities—but he had suggested their date be in solitude. How dare he present a situation that could bring her virtue into question? Then, as if her humiliation and anger at the situation weren’t enough, he had dared to make such a request in front of several purebloods! Luckily for her, her mum’s youngest brother—Uncle Valerius—had been present at the time, being only a year older than herself. He and several of the other Slytherins had cursed and hexed Thomas until he acquired a three-week stay in St. Mungo’s. Haesel would wager it would have been worse for him, but Professor Black had to step in when Professor McGonagall turned the corner.
“Haesel, darling! So good to see you!”
Suppressing the blush that wanted to rise as she realized she hadn’t been paying attention to her surroundings, Haesel grinned up at her favorite teacher. “Uncle Regulus, how are you?” She tilted her head out of habit, and he leaned down to kiss both of her cheeks. She returned the loving gesture. It was always so hard to remember to call him ‘Professor Black’ at school, because he and Sirius were her favorite uncles from her father’s side of the family. She had heard stories about Peter Pettigrew and Remus Lupin (two more of her father’s dear friends), but she had never met them; Pettigrew had died of a virulent case of dragon pox, and Lupin had married a Muggle and moved out of the country.
“I’m well, darling. Better now that you’re here. I didn’t think you’d ever escape Cousin Dorea’s clutches, let alone your mother’s,” Regulus replied.
“It was a near thing, but worth the effort.”
Gray eyes swept down her figure. “I must say, I can’t believe you’re wearing it,” said Regulus, as he gestured to her tunic.
“Neither can Mum or Grandmama,” she whispered, grinning cheekily as her brother and uncle laughed with her.
It was hard to imagine Regulus being distant from her father and Uncle Sirius, but she had heard the stories many times. Regulus had been fostered to foreign purebloods, instead of English ones, and Sirius had been extremely displeased with his parents for it; foreign fosterings lasted five years, instead of the traditional one. So Sirius had insisted on staying with the Potters after his own fostering had ended, claiming he wouldn’t set one foot on any Black property until his little brother was returned by the “relative-stealing Italians who would turn Regulus into a Casanova”. Blacks were faithful, and he hadn’t been able to abide the thought of his brother picking up the Italians’ unsavory habit of allowing pureblood men to keep as many mistresses as they could afford. Luckily, Regulus came home with full knowledge of the Italian language, a charming accent that still colored his speech, and a love for pasta. He found the pureblood wizards’ lack of fidelity as revolting as ever. If he hadn’t, Haesel wondered if it would have torn the Black family apart.
“And how’s the little king today?” Regulus asked Henry.
Though the Blacks used stars and constellations to name their children, it was a Potter family tradition to name the eldest male son after an English king. Grandfather Charlus’s own father was seen as something of a rebel for using an alternate spelling of ‘Charles’. Henry claimed he would name his firstborn son Arthur, much to their father’s amusement and grandfather’s consternation.
“Grateful to be here,” said Henry. “What are you doing here, Uncle Regulus? Are you looking for a fencing opponent?” He bounced on the balls of his feet as he asked.
“I’m afraid Regulus has already engaged me for his next match, Master Potter.”
Haesel glanced to her left and locked gazes with Lord Evan Rosier. He had plain brown eyes and hair, and thin lips. Without the aquiline nose and high, sharp cheekbones, he wouldn’t have resembled a pureblood.
Evan bowed to her, his face expressionless, as it had been every time she had ever seen it. “Lady Haesel. My apologies for interrupting.” His monotone voice neither confirmed nor denied the validity of his words.
“Apology accepted, Lord Rosier,” Haesel replied as she inclined her head to him. The short curtsey she gave should have looked ridiculous, given the length of the tunic, and that she was wearing a tunic at all, but she made it look elegant instead of awkward. She also didn’t miss the many eyes that were drawn to her legs; she ignored them, though, when said gazes didn’t reveal anything but admiration.
“Our fencing hall is ready, Regulus,” Evan said, revealing the reason he had intruded upon their conversation.
“It’s that time already? Very well, Evan. I’ll be along in just a minute,” Regulus said. He turned his attention back to Henry. “Another time, all right?”
“Soon?” asked Henry.
“Yes, soon.” Before Henry could open his mouth again, Regulus said, “I promise.”
“I’ll hold you to that.”
Chuckling, Regulus nodded. “I know. I know.” He patted Henry on the shoulder and then faced Haesel, lifting one hand to cup her right cheek. “Will you two be able to join me for dinner? It’s been much too long since we shared a meal.”
“Oh, please! Can we, Haesel?”
She rolled her eyes at her brother and then nodded to her uncle. “We’d be delighted, Uncle Regulus. Where would you like to meet?” Did he want to use one of the dining rooms here? Or was he thinking of a family dinner with the Blacks? Perhaps he had a new restaurant in mind? Knowing Uncle Regulus, it was the latter; he was obsessed with frequenting the newest premier eateries.
Regulus twirled his finger, indicating the lobby they stood within. It resembled the inside of an ash tree—with rings on the floor and grained walls. Each exit from the lobby seemed to be a branch growing off a massive tree. Technically, the lobby was the Yggdrasil room; each room in the club had its own name, based off décor or purpose. “Six o’clock work for you?” he asked.
Haesel cocked an eyebrow and smirked at her brother. “Think we can entertain ourselves for five hours?” When Henry grinned wickedly, she clarified, “Without using any Weasley products, causing mayhem, or starting a blood feud.”
Henry pouted and pulled away from her, as if she had just threatened to assassinate pranksters all over the world. “Six o’clock will be fine,” he said to Regulus, never taking his hurt-filled eyes off Haesel.
“See you then.” He turned and left for his match.
“Mentioning all the fun things I can’t do is just mean,” Henry said. She wouldn’t have been surprised if he had stuck out his tongue; in fact, she was impressed he didn’t, since they were in public.
Haesel rested her hand on his arm in consolation. “I just need you to focus on all the fun things that you can do.”
He shrugged. “This is your escape attempt. What do you want to do?” The serious tone of his voice gave her pause and reminded her that her brother was growing up. Just a year ago, he would’ve waved his arm and dragged her off to do whatever had caught his fancy. Now he was trying to get her mind off her coming of age gala (nightmare) and was willing to let her pick what they did.
She saw the other wizards and witches in the room observing her and her brother. They likely want to see what we pick and then happen to choose the same pastime, she thought snidely. She wasn’t in the mood to offer more fodder for gossip. Well, that wasn’t entirely accurate; she was out in public wearing wizard’s clothing, after all. She meant she wasn’t in the mood to gossip, or answer countless questions from strangers and acquaintances—not that she ever was. Haesel prized her privacy above most things in life.
“At this time of year the Jasmine room is doubtlessly booked,” she said. The Jasmine room was a tearoom with an attached oriental garden. Her parents had met there on their first marriage date, and she adored it too. Their parents had instilled a love of the tea ceremony in both of them, despite its general feminine appeal. Elegance in any form was beautiful. However, the Jasmine room was constantly booked because of marriage dates and various other events.
“Doubtlessly,” Henry agreed.
It was so popular that to request it without weeks’ notice would make them look like utter fools. Haesel, like most people, loathed making an idiot of herself. Therefore, they would have to do something else.
Haesel’s second favorite room wouldn’t guarantee them privacy at all. Whereas the Jasmine room was restricted to three or less occupants, the Gallery allowed fifty or less. Still, both she and Henry were artistic; her family was a firm supporter of the arts and both she and her brother were the pupils of many, many tutors growing up.
“The Gallery? We’ve not painted in months.”
“Brilliant idea, Haesel. Let’s go paint!”
Delighted smiles graced the countenances of the purebloods around them, and Haesel wondered if the Gallery would already be full to capacity before they even reached it; wizards and witches left the Yggdrasil room as quickly as was polite, almost all of them heading down the hallway that led to the Gallery.
Once the lobby was almost empty, Henry leaned down and whispered, “Did you still want to paint, or was that a decoy plan to make them all go away so we could sneak off to a different room?”
Haesel giggled, one hand raised to block the few remaining people from witnessing her amusement. “I did want to paint, but now that so many people will be there, likely waiting to interrogate me—”
“Very politely and properly, of course,” Henry interjected.
“Oh, of course!” Haesel agreed. “I daresay just about any other activity and room suddenly holds a greater appeal.” It was a pity, because she really did miss painting. However, the last thing she wanted was to listen to endless chatter about her coming of age gala, suitors, dancing, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseam. And she had no doubt, whatsoever, that such things would be the primary topic of conversation. She had fled the manor to avoid all that; toppling into a pool of similar questions and suggestions defeated the whole point of coming here.
“I couldn’t agree more,” Henry said. The few wizards in the room smirked in their direction at the assertion, which was louder than normal. He had a habit of getting louder and more boisterous when he was excited about something—such as accidentally tricking a mass of people into leaving them alone.
Haesel laughed gaily. “Why don’t we go—?”
“Haesel!” a voice hollered, distracting her from her line of thought and causing her to spin in shock. He never yelled at her in public! “Please, for the love of Merlin and Morgana, do me a favor and kill me this instant!”
* * *
Marvolo wished to escape Riddle Manor. As wonderful as the house-elves were doing with it since his return, it still lacked a woman’s touch, or indeed any hint that anyone lived there. Marvolo, in his mind, was much like a ghost when it came to the sprawling manor. His presence was barely noticeable to anyone who happened by—with or without the many protection charms on the property.
With a pinch of Floo powder, he whispered two words: “Malfoy Manor.” As the green flames engulfed him, he absently wondered if Abraxas was still alive. He must be. The man was about his age! It would be preposterous if he were not.
And yet the cowering house-elf—really, Marvolo almost wanted to kick the thing—told him that Abraxas had been dead twenty years as he handed over his card.
“Dead? From what?” He did not allow his face to show any shock, but still, Abraxas had been at Hogwarts with him, had been one of his followers when he (briefly) had dreams of grandeur and of becoming the next Dark Lord. That was before Dumbledore had defeated Grindelwald and he saw just how happy the sheep-like populace was about the entire affair. It really was quite shocking—and life changing, in his case.
“It is nots for Dobby to say, m-milord,” the creature responded. He looked about ready to stick his head down a loo, his big eyes filled with disgusting purple tears.
“The Master of the House, then,” was his dismissive response.
“Master Lucius be out with young Master Draco,” the little creature said.
Really, this was getting most vexing.
“Then the Mistress.” Marvolo barely contained the impatience in his voice. Really. These were calling hours, after all. If she wasn’t in, then Marvolo might be aggravated enough to find alternate entertainment. In the olden days, he would have found a witch for a dalliance, but that didn’t appeal to him now. Not with the whiff of sheer magical power that had danced about the hemline of Lady Haesel’s skirts. Nothing and no one could compare with that.
“Mistress be right this way,” the house-elf answered.
He hit the creature with the top of his cane just for good form—really, he could just see the self-harm brimming in the house-elf’s eyes, and hopefully he would think that he had been properly punished and not go overboard. There was nothing worse than a servant that just didn’t know when to stop hurting and maiming itself. What use was a house-elf if it had ironed its hands and couldn’t properly make tea? Sometimes Marvolo wondered if they had any brain function at all.
Dobby led Marvolo through the main foyer, up an elaborate staircase, and into a very comfortable sitting room on the second floor. It was feminine and done in light blues, the safe haven of a lady. The woods were all light and airy. Glass doors that led out to a terrace were open, letting in a gentle and calming breeze. It was utterly charming, if not a bit predictable. Then again, for a Black it was almost downright scandalous.
Two women were sitting on a settee, drinking tea with their heads pressed together. One was obviously a Black. With an ample bosom and dark hair, she couldn’t be anything but a Black. Her eyes were hooded and the deep blue dress she wore highlighted her long, pale neck. Marvolo’s gaze, if he had been any other wizard, would have swept over her, as the lady no doubt intended. Although she was clearly in her mid-forties, she was nonetheless breathtaking.
The second woman Marvolo presumed to be Lady Malfoy’s guest. She was nearly as beautiful as Lady Malfoy, although with much softer coloring. Her hair was a stunning gold that fell in ringlets about her shoulders and down her back. Her figure was thinner, more sylph-esque, more like the ladies of the Lone Islands. She barely had any hips, reminding Marvolo of the Muggle cut outs he had seen at the orphanage from his youth of androgynous beauties during the 1920s. Still, her cheekbones were high, her nose slightly upturned, and her blue eyes sparkled in the afternoon sunlight. If she had been sitting next to anyone but a Black, she would have gained any wizard’s attention. Sadly, her choice of companion meant that all attention would instantly be taken away from her. Where this unknown lady was all light and air, Lady Malfoy was temptation and dark seduction.
“Mistress,” Dobby stated, holding out the silver tray with Marvolo’s card on it. The ladies turned to look at the house-elf. The fair-haired one, surprisingly, took the card in her elegant hand. Upon glancing at it, her eyebrows rose minimally, before her eyes flicked to Marvolo’s figure near the doorway.
She stood, the other lady who seemed not to be Lady Malfoy, following a second later although she hadn’t read the card. The witch in the pink robes had immediately set it down again when her eyes caught Marvolo’s gaze. “Lord Slytherin,” she greeted, extending her hand, “I am Narcissa, the Lady Malfoy.” She smiled ingratiatingly at him.
Not missing a moment despite his surprise—had Abraxas’s child not married a Black or was this lady simply a genetic throwback in the line?—Marvolo advanced. He took Narcissa’s hand in his own and raised it to just below his lips before releasing it, never letting his dark gaze leave his hostess’s.
“Lady Malfoy, a true pleasure,” he said, lips curling in what might pass as a smile.
Narcissa curtsied to him, her head bowed low and her décolletage perfectly on display before him, before rising again and meeting his eyes. “I apologize for my husband’s absence this afternoon. If Lord Malfoy had known that you would be gracing us with your esteemed presence . . .”
“Not at all,” he cut her off politely before she could feel any more embarrassed. Marvolo was nothing if not charming. “And who might your friend be, Lady Malfoy?”
The lady in question curtsied lowly, daring to glance up at him through her eyelashes before lowering them again submissively.
Ah. He knew the type. Whoever she was she was unhappy with her bonding or simply wanted his power in any form she could get it, even by debasing herself to becoming his mistress. Or both. Marvolo, even if he were interested, was not indiscreet, especially with a prize like Lady Haesel so close to being his. He would not jeopardize securing her as the mother of his heirs for any witch, even a dark beauty like this one.
“My sister, Bellatrix, the Lady Lestrange,” Narcissa answered.
Bellatrix offered her hand. Marvolo grasped it out of politeness but barely lifted it, clearly dismissing her silent offer.
Her lips twitched in agitation. She was a true Black then, spoilt to the core.
“Please, ladies,” he said, making a sweeping movement with his arm. The sisters resumed their seats and, a moment later, Marvolo sank into a comfortable armchair. A cup of tea was immediately beside him, warm and steaming.
“I hope that you do not mind Earl Grey, my lord,” Narcissa began. “We have other blends if it is your wish, but when my sister and I have an afternoon together, we usually favor this one.”
She smiled at him again, the perfect hostess. He could see why the Malfoy whelp had chosen her. Well, that and her coloring. Any child she and a Malfoy would produce would be fair-haired and fair-skinned. Malfoys were nothing if not vain and creatures of habit. It would not have mattered if Lord Malfoy had wished to bond with Lady Lestrange, he still would have chosen his current wife for tradition alone. The entire alliance made more sense now.
“Earl Grey is more than agreeable, Lady Malfoy.” To make a point, he picked up his cup and sipped it. It was the finest money could buy. The Lone Islands did not have tea at all; it was one of the few comforts of England that he had missed when away, all of these decades.
Bellatrix flicked her hair over one shoulder, baring her neck, and pursed her deep red lips at him. Clearly, she hadn’t given up. “To what do we owe the honor of your visit, Lord Slytherin?”
“I wished to speak to my old friend Abraxas, only to hear that he had passed on while I was in the Lone Islands.” He spoke to Narcissa and could see Bellatrix flick her hair in annoyance at his obvious lack of interest in her.
“He tragically died of Dragon Pox nearly fifteen years ago,” Narcissa recounted, her eyes lowering. “Poor Draco, Lacerta, and Iolanthe—my children, Lord Slytherin—never had the chance to know any of their grandparents.”
Ah, the perfect opening. Marvolo hid a smirk behind his teacup. He couldn’t have planned it better himself. “Is Master Malfoy not of age, then? And your daughters?” he inquired politely.
“Draco is just seventeen,” Narcissa answered proudly. “He was too young, though, to remember his grandfather. Lacerta is three years younger, and little Io just completed her very first year at Hogwarts.” She was obviously a proud and doting mother.
“In Hufflepuff,” Bellatrix muttered under her breath with disapproval.
Marvolo ignored the latter comment and inclined his head in acknowledgement to Narcissa. “I’m sorry for the Malfoy family’s loss,” he murmured, intentionally leaving Bellatrix out. She was batting her eyelashes. Really. Some women were all the same. “Is your son looking forward to the seasons?”
There was no set wizarding season for pureblood ladies. When they were of age or ready to be debuted by their families, usually between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, they were presented. The summer was the most popular time because Hogwarts was not in session, but marriage dates continued throughout all four seasons.
“Indeed,” Narcissa replied with a gracious smile. “You may not have heard, but Lady Haesel Potter is about to come of age. She is the most powerful witch of her generation.”
“It’s a shame, though,” Bellatrix added, “that her family decided to keep her from going on marriage dates before her debut. Often a young lady might be betrothed at this point. Though, for a lady with such power—”
“Yes,” Marvolo interrupted. “I imagine her family wished her to have all the options she could, given her magical prowess.” His eyes flicked back to Narcissa. “I take it your son means to try for her?”
“Of course,” she responded.
He knew such matters were rarely discussed outside of a family before a formal declaration was made, but Marvolo was a member of the oligarchy and Ambassador to the Lone Islands. He had deigned to visit, deigned to remain when his classmate was dead and only ladies of the house were at home, deigned to take tea with them. The honor and privilege was all theirs. They would answer his questions because he asked them politely and privately. To do anything less would be rude and potential social suicide if it got out—and if Lady Malfoy had learned anything from her father-in-law about him, it would be that Marvolo did not allow rudeness to go unchecked.
Narcissa sipped her tea, her head tilted to the side. “Draco and Lady Haesel are year-mates at Hogwarts.”
“And you, Lady Lestrange. Do you have any unattached sons who shall try against their cousin?”
A flush of shame filled her cheeks. Ah, it was nice to see that Bellatrix could do something other than flirt shamelessly with him in the presence of her sister.
Narcissa glanced at Bellatrix. “My sister has yet to be blessed with children,” she answered diplomatically.
Sterile, in other words. Interesting.
“Master Lestrange, however, will try for her hand, if I am not much mistaken,” Narcissa continued.
Marvolo looked at her in question.
“My brother-in-law, Rabastan.” Bellatrix’s voice was bitter.
A deep laugh threatened to rumble out of Marvolo’s chest, but he withheld it and smirked. Marvolo was nothing if not self-controlled.
Still, it was interesting information. Bellatrix was sterile, or her husband didn’t desire her. Lord Lestrange had a younger, unmarried brother who may have been waiting for a powerful witch, such as Lady Haesel, to come of age. Or Master Lestrange at least now recognized that he would most likely be Lord Lestrange and, if not, his son could be.
“Lady Rana Lestrange is a year older than both Draco and Lady Haesel,” Narcissa explained. “Lady Rana is Lord Lestrange’s only child by our other sister, Andromeda, who sadly died in childbirth.”
“I grieve with thee.” The words felt brittle on his tongue, so unused to uttering the standard wizarding phrase in such intimate cases of loss. Witches, despite their magic, sometimes died in childbirth. Many witches who almost died, though survived childbirth, almost exclusively gave birth to Squibs. Those who died were believed to have willingly given their magic to their child—and there was no greater honor or sacrifice a witch could make for her child. That the motherless children may have been Squibs held no stigma, as they were often strong magically and were sometimes believed to be instant reincarnations of their deceased mothers.
“Thank you,” Narcissa whispered. Bellatrix looked away; conflicted feelings were written along the tightening of her jaw. Marvolo thought she must feel it acutely. Married to her sister’s husband and unable to give him a son, when her own sister had given up her life for his only child, would be the ultimate humiliation.
“Lady Rana?” he prompted.
There was a pause. Bellatrix stared out the window, her mind apparently elsewhere.
“She is a close acquaintance of Lady Haesel,” Narcissa replied, setting down her own teacup and smoothing out a crease in her robes near her knees. “Dear Rana has often brought her to visit Malfoy Manor to go riding. My husband, Lucius, has a stable full of Abraxans, and both young ladies are fond of riding. And, well, I’m always happy to see my niece as often as possible.”
“Of course,” he responded. That was to be expected, especially given the information he had just received concerning her deceased sister. “And Lady Haesel?”
“She is a delight,” Narcissa supplied with another one of her sweet and charming smiles. “She has the Potter spirit, naturally, but she is thoroughly the pureblood lady. May I ask why you are so interested, my lord, if I am not being too forward?”
“Of course, my dear lady,” he replied with a smile. He refrained from baring his teeth, a frightening and yet attractive sight. “If, by any chance, your son is offered Lady Haesel’s maiden dance, which I believe unlikely but nonetheless a possibility, I wish for him to respectfully decline.” The request was bold for a drawing room, but, well, he was Lord Slytherin. Also, given his conversation with Old Charlus, he doubted anyone but himself (or possibly a godbrother of Lady Haesel’s) would be given her maiden dance, unless she had some kind of preference.
Bellatrix’s head snapped toward him in shock. “You mean to try for her?” The question was impertinent, coming from her lips, especially as she did not address him properly.
“Normally, Lady Malfoy, I would make such a request of your husband.”
“O-of course, my lord. I once again apologize for his absence.”
He waved his hand. “There is no need. My visit was one of impulse and unplanned. If you and your husband would be so kind as to take my request under consideration?”
“But of course, my lord.” She bowed her head in a polite form of submission.
“Thank you, Lady Malfoy. Does, by any chance, Lady Haesel have godsiblings to your knowledge?” He looked between the sisters in feigned politeness. This really was too simple.
“One that’s of age,” Bellatrix answered, barely suppressed anger in her voice. Marvolo looked at her, his eyes hard. She swallowed. “One, my lord.”
“And he is?”
Narcissa answered this time. “Heir Longbottom, the son of Lord Frank Longbottom and Lady Alice. His given name, I believe, is Neville, my lord.”
Ah, the Longbottoms. The family was entirely too suitable for his tastes. Light all the way through, and without any spark. He doubted a Longbottom could gain, let alone keep, the interest of someone as powerful as Lady Haesel.
“Thank you, Lady Malfoy,” he replied, standing to take his leave. The two sisters across from him stood as well. It appeared, then, that he had another visit to make before seeing about dinner.
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